Nature will have made its way into the city in 2050

Published on
March 28, 2022

The city will be green and circular in 2050. If we make the right choices in time, says Eveline van Leeuwen, professor of Urban Economics and scientific director of AMS Institute. ‘It all starts with real commitment and clear goals.’

Eveline, how do you envision the city of 2050?

‘That depends on what choices we make. If we opt for green and sustainable, the city of the future will be significantly healthier than that of today. Trees will provide ample shade and evaporation on hot days, and they help excess water flow into the ground, where it is stored in times of rain. And there will be green gardens, parks and flowerbeds everywhere, and blue-green and green rooftops. In 2050, nature will have made its way into the city.’

Is the city of the future circular?

‘Circular behaviour is required for a circular city. We must use fewer items and refrain from using disposables. When items are no longer useful, they must be recycled or repurposed. That will impact the city’s infrastructure. In 2050, sustainable shopping must be the standard choice. This is currently challenging because many products are still wrapped in disposable packaging. We must shift to reusable packaging that can be cleaned sustainably, after which it is returned to the producer for reuse.’

Are cities already prepared to become greener and more sustainable?

‘Yes, definitely. A city such as Amsterdam, for example, is already working is making the quay walls more sustainable, and a wonderful blue-green infrastructure is emerging. Increasingly, cities perceive water as a valuable resource, especially after these last dry years. Blue infrastructure can very well be combined with green. A real win-win, especially if done regionally.’

What about the quality of life in the green city of the future?

‘Improving the quality of life is, indeed, a key driver for a greener city. Scientific studies show that green can prevent all sorts of health issues. Being close to nature makes people healthier and more resilient and improves their well-being. Green helps prevent isolation, encourages interaction and has a calming effect.’

Finally, what steps must we take now to ensure a green, circular city in the future?

‘It all starts with true commitment and clear goals. Policies are often based on how things have always been done, without considering what type of city we want and who should benefit from policies. A green and circular city need not be expensive, especially if we stop taxing labour and start taxing feedstock and materials instead. That will make deploying people in production systems more attractive, and more people will have a job that makes them happy. I am optimistic that cities in 2050 will be better for our health and living environment in all aspects.’